How to understand your ankle and foot pain?

Published on May 11 2018

Feet are amazing structures which can support us through good and bad. With its 26 bones and 16 joints, a foot can’t get away from getting injured from time to time. This article is meant to help people who suffer from foot pain to understand which structures could be involved. However, if you do suffer from foot pain, seek an healthcare provider’s advice.

Heel pain

  • Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is characterised by heel pain which can spread to the plantar arch. It is frequently associated with Lenoir spine. Lenoir spine is a bony structure starting from the heel.
  • Achilles tendinitis or tendinopathy: It causes pain in the Achilles tendon (behind the ankle) but it can also cause heel pain since it’s where the tendon attaches.  The pain is usually worse when going on the tiptoes.
  • Sever’s disease: This problem happens among children who grow fast. Bones grow so fast that the surrounding soft tissues (muscles and tendons) don’t have time to adjust. These soft tissues are constantly being stretched. In Sever’s disease, the tension builds up in the posterior chain of muscles including calves which attach to heels.

Pain in the outside of the foot

  • Sciatic nerve injury: The sciatic nerve is responsible for most of the foot’s innervation. It transmits sensations from the spinal cord to the skin and muscles of the foot. If you suffer from back pain, it could also be related to foot pain. This kind of pain is commonly seen after an ankle sprain because a part of the sciatic nerve passes right by ligaments that are frequently injured. After a traumatic injury like an ankle sprain, the nerve can get irritated and give pain sensations.
  • Ankle sprain: The foot contains a lot of ligaments. Those on the outer part of the foot are the most commonly injured. They get torn when the ankle gets twisted inwards. Following a sprain, swelling might occur close to the injury.

Pain under the foot

As mentioned previously, plantar fasciitis can be one cause of pain under the foot. Muscles are also present in that area. Those can become painful if there’re recruited too frequently.

  • Peroneus longus tendinitis or tendinopathy: Peroneus longus is a muscle that passes on the side of the leg, then, goes under the foot. Muscular tension on the outside of the leg can be felt by touch in that case.
  • Tibialis posterior tendinitis or tendinopathy: Tibialis posterior muscle starts from the upper part of the back of the leg, then, goes under the foot.

Pain on top of the foot

As mentioned earlier, a nerve can create a sensation of pain. It’s one of the causes of pain on the top of the foot. A nerve irritation is often associated with numbness and tingling in the area. This kind of pain can be reproduced with movement of the lower limb as well.

Big toe

  • Osteoarthritis: The metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe (the junction between the big toe and the foot) is a joint well-known for osteoarthritis. Changes in the joint can modify the way in which the big toe moves, creating pain. The risk for this type of osteoarthritis is higher among people who also suffer from hallux valgus.
  • Hallux valgus: Have you ever heard of bunions? The scientific term is hallux valgus. It’s a lateral deviation of the big toe. Wearing high heels is a risk factor for developing or exacerbation of this condition. In high heels, more weight is supported by the forefoot, therefore increasing the weight pushing towards the deformation.

If you suffer from foot pain, don’t hesitate to take an appointment with our physiotherapist at ABC Health Clinic.

 

Marie-Hélène Nadeau, physiotherapist